The Infinity Concerto, Greg Bear’s first novel, written at the age of nineteen, was not published until fourteen years later. He always knew the story was incomplete, and The Serpent Mage soon followed its publication. The stories trace the efforts of young poet Michael Perrin to reconcile an ancient conflict between Earth’s original Faery inhabitants and present-day humankind.
Seventeen-year-old Michael makes the acquaintance of the aged composer Arno Waltiri, whose 1939 composition, the Infinity Concerto, had catastrophic consequences when members of its premiere audience began to disappear. Waltiri confides in young Michael, giving him a brass key and strange written instructions left years before by the mysterious David Clarkham, the inspiration behind the Infinity Concerto. After Waltiri’s death, Michael follows a mystic pathway through Clarkham’s now abandoned house and finds himself trapped in the terrifying Realm of the Sidhe. He discovers that the Sidhe are humanlike Faery creatures who hate all humans.
Michael immediately learns that artists from Earth have been captured by the Sidhe over the course of centuries and sequestered in the Pact Lands, an area that, after a devastating war, was separated from the Realm proper by a wasteland called the Blasted Plain, where grotesque monsters that prey on human souls dwell. In the Pact Lands, humans and strangely misshapen Sidhe/human offspring, called Breeds, live a dangerous existence.
Michael is forced to endure harsh physical and mental training by the enigmatic, powerful, and seemingly ancient Crane women, Nare, Spart, and Coom, the oldest of the Breeds, but he is not told why. Their severe discipline pushes Michael to his limits, but he masters the hyloka, a way to make use of his...
(The entire section is 740 words.)